CFL keeps salary cap at $4.2M

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TORONTO - The CFL is keeping its salary cap at $4.2 million in 2009.

CFL commissioner Mark Cohon made the announcement Wednesday, saying the decision to maintain the status quo is the right one for the league given the current economic climate.

"Our league is well positioned for challenging times, because it is affordable for Canadian families, accessible to our fans, and prudent in how it conducts its business," Cohon said in a statement. "The Board of Governors has strived to maintain that affordability, accessibility and prudence in holding the cap number steady for 2009."

Last year, the CFL boosted its cap from $4.05 million to the current level.

With average attendance nearing 29,000, and the CFL's television ratings very strong, Cohon said the league is in a stable position moving forward.

"We are optimistic about moving forward in the new year, but we must do so responsibly, so we continue to build on our success, not jeopardize it," Cohon said.

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The Canadian Football League is in a good position to ride out the tough economic times and London isn't on the map as the location of a possible CFL team should the league ever expand.

Those are just two of the issues that CFL commissioner Mark Cohon may touch on when he appears in London on March 24 as keynote speaker at the University of Western Ontario's scholarship breakfast.

The breakfast is used to raise funds for athletic financial awards to keep top student-athletes in Canada.

Last year's speaker was Richard Peddie of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment.

"I'll focus on the CFL today," Cohon said. "Where we are, where we're going, where we've come from . . . the kind of successes we are having and what we need to focus on in this economy."

Cohon has a Major League Baseball and NBA background. He's in his second year as commissioner and is heading a CFL renewal. Strong attendance and good television ratings have sparked the renewal.

A five-year contract with TSN has given the CFL the kind of profile necessary to attract new fans and sponsorship possibilities.

"I wouldn't be a smart CEO if I wasn't concerned about the economy," he said. "But we're positioned a little bit different than other sports organizations. Our costs are very lean with our teams. We're a very affordable product. If you go around to all of our eight teams, you can get a season-ticket package for $100. Our high end is about $800. So we're seeing season renewal numbers that are still good.

"We're going to be quite diligent in reaching out to our fans, thanking our fans. Doing things if we need to with that special offer for tickets. We want to make sure we're talking to fans in tough economic times."

If the product is affordable, sports remains a diversion in troubled times.

"Historically, a lot of sports entertainment is a vehicle in tough economic times for people to get away from all the challenges you are having at home," Cohon said. "Rather than having to spend $200 on floor seats for an NHL game, you can afford a $25 a ticket to an Argo game."

Cohon knows the league needs to expand its reach.

He will be heading to New Brunswick in February to meet with the premier.

"They have a new stadium (Moncton) that will be ready in 2010," he said. "We want to put a regular-season game out there, expand our fan base."

Cohon said they haven't looked at London for a regular-season game. London has often been at the centre of expansion rumours, but when you look at Cohon's parameters, London isn't going to be in the mix any time soon.

"I'm always very frank with people. If you want to talk expansion, there are three things. No. 1, do you have the right local owners? No. 2, do you have the facility to make that happen? No. 3, is there an underlying business community that can support a team whether through sponsorship, and the base to have 25,000 people at nine games a year?"

Cohon touched on other issues.

The Hamilton Ticats: "In a place like Hamilton, it is about stadium renewal. We're hoping the (Pan-American Games) bid will be successful, creating an opportunity for the city of Hamilton and the Golden Horseshoe to create a facility not just for the Hamilton Ticats, but for the whole community."

On worries about the NFL expanding to Canada: "My focus is improving our league. The NFL has a lot of other things on their plate right now, their collective bargaining agreement, their own stadium renewal, the tough economic times in the states. The passing of Ted Rogers (founder of Rogers Communications) has changed the landscape as well in terms of interest. I can't speculate on what's going to happen, but I'm very much focused on our league."

Cohon's philosophy on sports is simple.

"The business of sport is not rocket science. It's really about understanding your fan base . . . making sure you engage your fans. What I said to the board of governors when I came in was that it isn't about a revolution, but an evolution."

It's a mistake as not only should the cap have risen to $5M the rosters should have increased to 46(from 42) actually playing or a new 50 man roster with 46 playing.

Yeah... because increasing the cap and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars more each season is financially responsible during an unpredictible global economic recession... /sarcasm

We'll likely see the overall average league attendance drop this year b/c of the recession. As well, Toronto and Hamilton could be in for a rough year from a financial standpoint if their onfield performances do not improve.

Yeah, I like the move. Better to be safe than sorry. Keep the cap at what it is.

Sad to hear about London, though. I have no doubt we could find some sponsors; we have some big companies here. But finding owners and a stadium is the problem. Oh well.

Not to mention those fair-weather fans who won't go see a game unless it's being held in their bathroom, eh Chief?

I'm going to take that as a joke. Very funny, Artie. :lol:

I'm not sure the overall average will change by too much. I think we will see one of the Ontario teams perk up enough to cover any drops. You know that Saskatchewan will keep it's average, same in Montreal, Calgary might even see an increase with winning a Grey Cup and hosting one at the end of the year. Overall I think we'll be +/- 5% from the past year. Pretty status quo and hopefully we'll see a bump in the economy and be able to raise the salary cap next year to 4.5 million and hold there for a season or two.

If Hamilton is half decent this year I’m betting you’ll see them go way up. The only reason they got as low as they did last year was because they’ve been abysmal 2 years in a row. Even a 6 or 8 win season and I’m betting they’re easily back over the 25k average again.

You should know me well enough by now to know I was just kidding with ya, Chief.

Which is why I took it as a joke... :wink:

The players don't seem all that concerned,they are guaranteed 55% of revenues. If the league goes over that amount,it will come back to the players.

Players were spoiled with the inflated canadian dollar. For imports the drop in the dollar is a lot bigger then any adjustments in cap dollars.

I agree with this statement.

The Cats will be better this year than the previous few. I think they can win 8 to 10 games this year and make it into the playoffs.

When the Cats are winning attendance does go up. When IWS is full, it is such a great atmosphere.

We here in Hamilton have fallen on hard times. Every week another factory is closing up shop or laying people off but I think Cohon put it best when he said it is affordable to all Canadian families.

You can sit in the endzone for 11 bucks a game a IWS.

That's a good point.

I don't know why the CFL needs to raise the salary cap. IMO the CFL salary cap would have to be around $10 million to compete with NFL teams for NFL 3rd stringers. The NFL minimum rookie salary for 2009 will be $310,000... that's about $380,000 Canadian! The CFL can't even compete with the NFL for rookies.

NFL Europe is dead. The Arena league closed up shop. I'll believe the AAFL or the UFL when I see it. There are only 2 leagues that pay football players and if you don't make the NFL, what do you do?

IMO the CFL actually competes with 7-11 and/or school districts for players. If your choice is $75,000 in the CFL playing football, $40,000 as a gym teacher or $25,000 at 7-11 what do you choose?

The average is 100k and its per season (six months)

Except making kids run laps in gym class or serving up slurpees at 7-Eleven are not roads to the NFL. It's about where your dreams are.

Yep - but I don't think that's what an average player makes. The median is probably closer to 75,000, but we're splitting hairs. Most NCAA or CIS football players will make as much or more in the CFL than in the real world.